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Mentors in Afghanistan

DND photo AR2011-0018-013 by Corporal Tina Gillies

Master Corporal Dion Sylvain of the Kandahar Mentor Team mentors the training of Afghan National Police members, 20 January 2011.

Developing a Sustainable Security Force

by William B. Caldwell IV with Nathan K. Finney

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The development of the Afghan National Security Force is one of the key elements of the international strategy to secure and stabilize Afghanistan. The development of professional and self-sustaining soldiers and police is critical to set the conditions for irreversible transition to full Afghan security responsibility and leadership by the end of 2014. Few nations have contributed, or have pledged to do in the future, as much as the government of Canada.

The Canadian military and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have been key players in NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan (NTM-A) since its activation in November 2009.  Canadian support is focussed upon training and mentoring the Afghan National Security Force, primarily by supporting the Afghan government to train and develop Afghan soldiers to conduct operations to degrade the insurgency, while developing the Afghan National Police ability to protect their people by promoting law and order. To accomplish this, the Canadian government is providing up to $99 million over three years toward training, mentoring, and equipping the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police; building capacity in administration and logistical support; and complementary initiatives in the justice and correctional systems.

Mentoring in Afghanistan

DND photo IS2011-2002-04 by Master Corporal Angela Abbey

Developing the Afghan National Army – The Defenders of the Afghan State

Mentoring and supporting the Afghan National Army is a key task of NATO and the Canadian Forces. A well-led, well-trained, and well-equipped Afghan National Army is essential for the Afghan Government to assume responsibility for national and provincial security, thus enabling governance and development to progress. The Canadian Forces has greatly contributed to the significant progress that the Afghan National Security Force have made this year, signified by the largest growth in the history of both the army and police, with a concomitant improvement of quality in both organizations.

Dedicated leadership by senior Canadian Forces officers assigned to NTM-A proved instrumental to the improvement of the Afghan National Army. Working closely with other members in the International Security Assistance Force and NTM-A, they used their extensive experience in coalition and whole-of-government operations to provide training and mentoring to the Afghan National Army, as well as to the senior leadership in the Afghan Ministry of Defense and Afghan National Army. Professional development of Afghan leadership extended to include junior officers, with Canadian Forces members supporting the planning and conduct of the 12-week Afghan National Army Junior Officer Staff Course in Kabul.

Canada’s additional commitment to the professionalization of the Afghan National Army includes significant support to infrastructure development. This includes $17 million programmed in 2010 and 2011 for the Afghan Command and Staff College, consisting of a 100-person male dormitory, a 20-person female dormitory, an expansion to the current dining facility, a twelve-room school building with lecture hall, and other support structures on the college grounds in Kabul. The expanded facilities will support a significant increase in the numbers of Afghan National Army junior officers attending the Junior Officer Staff Course, providing the Afghan National Army with its next generation of leaders as it expands over the next year.

All of the efforts by Canadian Forces in NTM-A have led to a better trained and equipped Afghan National Army – a force that is well on its way to securing its people and national sovereignty.

Developing the Afghan National Police – The Protectors of the Afghan People

The development of a professional military force is critical to the future security of Afghanistan. But a credible and professional Afghan National Police is key to fostering stability, making people feel safe, and enhancing the rule of law in the country. The development of the Afghan National Police is no less a priority of NTM-A, and Canadian Forces members have been at the forefront of those efforts. The majority of Canadian personnel in NTM-A are dedicated to the development of the police. Under the leadership of Deputy Commander for Police, Major General Stu Beare, approximately 50 civilian police trainers and four military police mentor teams support the Afghan National Police training at the national and provincial levels in Afghanistan.

Canadian Forces personnel participate in both training and mentorship roles for the Afghan National Police, which include the Afghan Uniformed Police, the Afghan National Civil Order Police, and the Afghan Border Police. With respect to the police basic training course, for example, Canadian mentors emphasize marksmanship, vehicle maintenance, medical training, and Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) first responder training.  This training has enhanced critical skills needed by police entering the field, and has standardized knowledge and skills in the police training centres across the country.

While the quantity and the quality of the Afghan National Police have greatly improved over the last year, attrition within the force continues to pose a serious challenge. Casualties, desertion, and better employment opportunities elsewhere represent the most likely causes for attrition. Canada, along with other contributing nations, has developed many initiatives to lower attrition rates and retain quality personnel. Competitive salary levels, including pay incentives such as high-risk allowances, have also established pay equity between the Afghan National Police and the Afghan National Army. Designed to improve retention and morale, these incentives remunerate police at a level commensurate with the risks they face. Training has also been revised to increase survivability and morale in the Afghan National Police. Additionally, providing better equipment supports the police for the demands of their job. Finally, Canada has led the way in increasing the quality of life for the police by improving living conditions in police stations.

One of the most successful programs to recruit and retain Afghan police has been literacy training. To address the low literacy rates among Afghan National Police (with recruits entering service at approximately a 14 percent literacy rate), Canada initiated literacy training for police officers in Kandahar City. With literacy trainers provided by an Afghan NGO, they deliver the training, while a local Afghan monitoring firm oversees the training and provides reporting on progress. At present, there are over 45,000 police enrolled in literacy training, with almost 25,000 having already completed at least a first-grade level education.

Canadian police officers assist an Afghan National Police officer with pistol training

DND photo AR2010-0144-03 by Sergeant Daren Kraus

Canadian police officers, both federal and municipal, assist an Afghan National Police officer with pistol training in Kandahar, Afghanistan, 21 June 2010.

The Future of Canadian Commitment

While Canada has been one of the ‘top five’ contributors to the NATO Training Mission, Canadian Forces are poised to become its second largest contingent. With the completion of the combat mission in southern Afghanistan, the Canadian government has pledged to reinvest approximately 950 soldiers and police to NTM-A. This includes the overall command of Afghan National Army training and mentorship of Afghan Army leaders. According to a relatively recent announcement by the Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay, Brigadier-General Michael Day will take over the deputy commanding army general position, effectively putting him in charge of the army training mission, with Brigadier-General Kelly Woiden joining him as the assistant commanding general for Afghan National Army development.1


Canadian support to the development of the Afghan National Security Force cannot be overstated. With the addition of more trainers to develop the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police, NTM-A can not only sustain the significant progress created over the last year, but can accelerate the momentum. While NTM-A makes up only two percent of the international troop strength in Afghanistan, its impact is telling.  NTM-A personnel have trained and equipped an Afghan National Security Force that today makes up 63 percent of all security forces in the country. By improving the Afghan Army and Police capacity to generate, equip, field, and sustain their security force, they will be able to take the lead for security in their country within the next three years. This would not have been possible without Canadian support, and it will be essential as the Coalition begins to transition the security lead of Afghans in the near future.

Lieutenant General William B. Caldwell IV

Courtesy US Army

Lieutenant General William B. Caldwell IV

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Lieutenant General William B. Caldwell, IV, US Army, a highly experienced infantry officer, is currently Commanding General of the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan in Kabul, Afghanistan. He is also Commanding General Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan.

Captain Nathan K. Finney, US Army, is a strategist currently serving with the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan.


  1. Bryn Weese, “Canadians taking senior posts in Afghan training mission,” in The Toronto Sun,
    http://www.torontosun.com/news/canada/2011/02/07/17187681.html, accessed 9 February 2011.

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